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This year, one out of every two deaths in the U.S. will be the result of cardiovascular disease. It's the number one cause of death in America. It can strike anyone: men and women of all ages, races, and economic classes. Calcium Scoring can help identify your risk for heart disease. And when you know what you're facing, you can make lifestyle changes that can reduce your chances of suffering a heart attack, stroke, or other form of cardiovascular disease.
What is Calcium Scoring?
Calcium Scoring or Cardiac CT is a noninvasive simple, convenient screening to identify coronary artery disease (CAD). Calcium Scoring looks for calcium in the walls of the coronary arteries, the vessels that supply oxygen-rich blood to the body. The amount of calcium found on this scan helps identify your risk for CAD and heart attack. It also can help your doctor determine the most appropriate treatment for slowing the progression of coronary artery disease. Calcium Scoring can be completed within 20-30 minutes, does not require the injection of contrast material and leaves no radiation in the body following examination.
Who can benefit from Calcium Scoring?
People with the following risk factors can benefit:
• Abnormally high cholesterol levels
• A family history of heart disease
• High blood pressure
• Cigarette smoking
• Being overweight or obese
• Being physically inactive
Women should always inform the CT technologist and their physician if there is any possibility that they are pregnant.
How do you prepare for this screening?
No special preparation is necessary. You may continue to take your usual medications but should avoid caffeine or smoking prior to the procedure. You should wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing. You may or may not be given a gown to wear during the procedure. Metal objects including jewelry, eyeglasses, dentures, hearing aids and metal hair accessories should be removed before the scan.
How does Calcium Scoring work?
Calcium Scoring works very much like other X-ray exams. With Calcium Scoring, X-ray beams and electronic X-ray detectors rotate around you, measuring the amount of radiation being absorbed throughout your body. A special computer program processes this data to create images of your body. These images are then reassembled by computer software and a very detailed picture of your body is displayed on a monitor.
What about radiation risk?
Penrose Hospital and St. Francis Medical Center use
low-dose computerized axial tomography (CAT) scanners
that cut patients' radiation exposure by up to 40 percent compared to traditional scanners. We are proud to be the first and only imaging center in southern Colorado to bring you this technology.
How is Calcium Scoring performed?
The technologist begins by positioning you on the CT examination table, usually lying flat on your back. Straps and pillows may be used to help you stay in the correct position and to help you hold still during the exam. Electrodes will be attached to your chest and to an ECG machine that records the electrical activity of your heart. The table moves through the scanner to determine the correct starting position. The table will move through again as the actual CT scanning is performed. When the examination is complete, you will be asked to wait until the technologist verifies that the images can be accurately interpreted.
What will you experience during and after Calcium Scoring?
Most Calcium Scoring screenings are painless, fast and easy. There may, however, be some discomfort from having to remain still for several minutes. Also, if you are claustrophobic, uncomfortable or have chronic pain, your doctor can prescribe a mild sedative to help relax you. You will hear only slight buzzing, clicking and whirring sounds during the imaging process. You will be alone in the exam room during the scan, but the technologist will be able to see, hear and speak with you at all times.
After the test you can return to your normal activities.
What does your score mean?
A radiologist will analyze the images and send a report to your primary care doctor or referring physician. (Can they get their score before they leave that day?) A negative scan shows no calcium within the coronary arteries and suggests that the chance of having a heart attack over the next two to five years is low. A positive scan means that CAD is present, and the amount of calcium present helps predict the likelihood of a heart attack. This is expressed as a calcium score and the different ranges can be seen below.
Calcium Score Presence of CAD
No evidence of CAD
Minimal evidence of CAD
Mild evidence of CAD
Moderate evidence of CAD
Extensive evidence of CAD
What are the limitations of Calcium Scoring?
How can you get tested?
Calcium Scoring is considered a screening, so it does not require a physician referral. But, you should consult with your physician to see if Calcium Scoring is right for you. If you have risk factors for heart disease, Calcium Scoring may help you and your physician determine the best treatment for you.
To schedule an appointment, please call, 719-77-MURMUR or 719-776-8768.
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